Elected Members Briefing - 9th February

Key Messages

Over 786,000 people have now received their first COVID-19 vaccination in Scotland.

Scotland’s next community testing site for people without COVID-19 symptoms will open in Cowdenbeath, Fife on Wednesday (February 10).

Funding of £3 million has been given to NHS boards to increase provision of residential drug rehabilitation placements and improve access to treatment and harm reduction service.

COSLA evidence to the Finance and Constitution Committee

COSLA Resources Spokesperson, Councillor Gail Macgregor, and Eileen Rowand, Chair of CIPFA Director of Finance Section, gave evidence to the Finance and Constitution Committee of the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday, February 3.

Expanding on the submission made to the committee in advance of the session, Councillor Macgregor and Eileen Rowand outlined the COSLA position in relation to Local Government funding and the impact of COVID-19 on council services.

You can view the official report on the Scottish Parliament website.

COSLA will also be giving evidence to the Local Government and Communities Committee on Wednesday, February 10, alongside SOLACE and Directors of Finance. This will be a virtual session and can be viewed on Scottish Parliament TV.

COSLA meeting with the Cabinet Secretary for Finance
COSLA Resources Spokesperson, Councillor Gail Macgregor, will meet with the Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Kate Forbes MSP, this week to further progress discussions on the Local Government Settlement in the Scottish Budget. This follows Councillor Macgregor’s letter to Ms Forbes following Leaders on January 29.

Local Government Finance Budget 2021/22 Analysis - Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe)
The Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe) has produced a useful research briefing which sets out a summary and analysis of the Local Government settlement for 2021-22, and the provisional allocations to Local Authorities. The briefing, shared with MSPs, includes the COSLA response to the budget, and highlights our attention to ongoing pressures faced by Local Authorities. Once again, the briefing highlights the change over time in relation to Scottish and Local Government funding:
“against a fixed baseline of 2013-14, and in real terms, the local government revenue budget has either fallen at a steeper rate than the Scottish Government equivalent, or has fallen while the Scottish Government revenue budget has increased, and that the local government revenue budget as a share of the Scottish Government equivalent budget has fallen”.

This is shown clearly in Figure 3 within the document. View the SPICe research briefing on the Scottish Parliament website.

Independent Review of Adult Social Care
The Independent Review of Adult Social Care was published on February 3.

The report makes 53 recommendations across the themes of - a human rights-based approach; unpaid carers, a National Care Service and how it should work; a new approach to improving outcomes; models of care; commissioning for public good; fair work; and finance.

Responding on behalf of COSLA, Councillor Stuart Currie, Health and Social Care Spokesperson, said: “COSLA notes the publication of the report and recommendations from the review of adult social care undertaken by Derek Feeley.

“It is clear a significant amount of work, and consultation has been undertaken in a very short space of time by Derek and his support team.

“COSLA will now reflect on the recommendations contained within the report with our member Councils – this reflection will be set against ongoing conversations around fair funding for services provided by Scottish Local Government and indeed the LG Blueprint that sets out our vision for Scotland in the coming years.”

A Special Leaders will be convened on Wednesday to discuss the recommendations in the report.

The Promise
On the first anniversary of the conclusion of the Independent Care Review when Scotland committed to #KeepThePromise to its children and families (Friday, February 5), Councillor Stephen McCabe paid tribute to the work of The Promise and reaffirmed Local Government’s commitment to care experienced children and young people.

He said: “I want to put on record my thanks and pay tribute to the efforts of a number of people and organisations who have worked extremely hard in incredibly difficult circumstances to make progress towards #KeepThePromise, and ensuring that the hope and optimism of a year ago has not waned. Which it hasn’t.

“It is vital that we continue to work towards making sure that all those with a responsibility to care experienced children and young people understand their role in the work of change  - because that is the least that they deserve from us all.”

The full release can be read here.

Self Isolation Support Grant
The Self-Isolation Support Grant provides a £500 payment to low income workers required to self-isolate by the Test and Protect service. The grant also provides support for parents and carers, who meet wider eligibility criteria, where children have been asked to stay home and self-isolate.

Eligibility for the grant was extended on February 2, to also include workers earning at or below the Real Living Wage, those in receipt of council tax reduction, people with caring responsibilities for someone over the age of 16 where the carer meets wider eligibility criteria. Additionally, the period during which people can apply for the grant has been extended to 28 days to recognise the barriers people may face e.g. ill health, in applying for the grant.

Applications for these groups will open from February 16, with backdated applications to  February 2 being accepted.

The Scottish Government anticipate that an additional 200,000 people will be eligible for the grant if they are asked to self-isolate. COSLA Community Wellbeing Spokesperson, Councillor Kelly Parry, welcomed the changes, stating: "Support to low income households through the grant will allow people to follow public health guidance and keep their families and communities safe."

COSLA is currently working closely with members and the Scottish Government to develop guidance and support for councils to bring in the extensions on February 16.

Hong Kong British National (Overseas) Visa opens
At the beginning of February, the Home Office opened a new visa route, available to people from Hong Kong who hold the status of British National (Overseas).

The visa route was opened following political repression in Hong Kong. The new visa entitles holders and their dependents to settle and work in the UK for up to five years, with the possibility of permanent settlement thereafter.

While there is currently no clarity on exactly how many migrants could come, high numbers are a possibility.
COSLA has created a webpage with key information and resources for Local Authorities.

We will continue to monitor events and will update councils accordingly.

For more information contact Chris Murray chris@cosla.gov.uk

Appropriate Adult Services
It has been a year since Appropriate Adult services in Scotland were placed on a statutory footing and associated Guidance for Local Authorities was published.

However, the pandemic has made transitioning to statutory arrangements challenging.
Jo Savege, National Appropriate Adult Co-ordinator, is leading on a wide range of work promoting implementation and development of the statutory service.

Appropriate Adults enable people to understand what is happening during investigations and facilitate effective communication with the police, and other such agencies. People who access Appropriate Adults are aged 16 years or over and have communication support needs associated with at least one of the following:
*            Learning disability
*            Mental health challenges
*            Personality disorder

Approximately 54% of referrals are for people who are victims or witnesses of a crime with the remainder being for people suspected or accused of committing an offence.

Business Gateway
National Webinars
The first phase of National Webinars run by the Business Gateway National Unit are proving very popular - with several being fully booked and over 100 attending each one so far. This demonstrates the appetite is there for this approach, and the team is already working on the next set which will run through the spring to early summer. Details of the new schedule will be updated as soon as they’re available here.

Planning to Start
Work is well underway on developing the new Planning to Start tool which will mean clients can get new and improved access to relevant support and an action plan to help them make the next steps on their journey, as well as linking them in with their local office.

Trading Standards
Trading Standards Scotland is the national team for trading standards in Scotland and is part of COSLA.
In the latest edition of their Scam Share Bulletin they outline scams which have been reported by consumers across Scotland, including those related to the COVID-19 outbreak.

There is some very useful information for local communities, covering issues such as puppy dealers, a range of scams and misleading adverts.

The team has also created a new infographic covering COVID-19 vaccine scams

The Local Government workforce and partners across sectors are working hard to support our communities.

We continue to highlight this across our social media channels - retweets and follows would be greatly appreciated.

Our Twitter and Facebook channels, Khub and website will be regularly updated.

If you or your officers require any clarity from COSLA officers on policy matters, please contact the team in the usual way. If you are not sure who to direct your email to, please contact COSLA member support.

Thank you all for your efforts during this challenging time.

Other Useful Links
* The current number of COVID-19 cases and the risk level can be found on the Scottish Government website
* NHS Inform’s webpage continues to be the source of up-to-date public health information
* All Scottish Government COVID-19 related guidance
* Help and support for those experiencing domestic abuse is available; and the helpline number is 0800 027 1234.